Companion Planting For Vegetables In The UK – Complete Guide

You may have heard the term companion planting for vegetables and wondered what it was. Wonder no more! 

In this article we will explain what companion planting is and how you can use it in your vegetable garden to increase your yield.

We will also give you some companion planting examples of the most commonly grown vegetables. But first things first…

What Is Companion Planting?

Companion planting or companion gardening is a method of growing a combination of plants together to get certain benefits. By creating plant communities like this in the same bed or pot or container, you practice polyculture as opposed to a monoculture, where you grow the same plant in one area. Or sometimes different plants from the same plant families. 

To Practice polyculture you plant lots of different plants together. This will increase the plant diversity in your beds, which will keep your soil healthy and disease free. 

Companion gardening is an age-old gardening methodology that has been used for centuries and is also used in organic agriculture nowadays. Not much research has been done into the merits of this gardening method, the knowledge of what works and what doesn’t, comes mostly from trial and error from keen gardeners.

Even so, anecdotal evidence shows that creating plant communities in your vegetable garden can help your plants thrive, even if there is no scientific evidence. Different plants can form beneficial relationships that help everyone thrive.

It might feel a bit weird to plant different plants together, as in our vegetable gardens we are used to practice monoculture. All the tomatoes in one bed, the carrots in another and so on. So it might even feel wrong to inter mingle plants.

But there are a many benefits of companion planting for vegetables:

  • minimise the risk of diseases attacking your vegetable plants
  • creating the right conditions for your plants, e.g. by providing natural shade for plants that don’t like full sun light
  • encourage natural predators of garden pests, such as predatory insects
  • reduce the growth of weeds
  • improve the health and growth of your plants and maintain a healthy soil
  • save space, as this method allows you to plant your plants closer together
  • some say, growing certain plants together can improve the flavour of your crop
  • attract pollinators to your garden
  • Pest control, as some plants will deter common pests

Four Ways To Use Companion Plants

plant community

Broadly speaking, there are four ways this gardening method can help your vegetable garden thrive:

  • by deterring insect pests and diseases
  • by attracting beneficial insects, birds and pollinators
  • by the use of martyr plants
  • by creating the best conditions for your plants

Deterring Pests And Diseases

One form of pest management is to prevent the pest to get to your garden plants and the same is true with diseases. Prevention is often the best way to keep your crop safe. And companion planting for vegetables is especially good, because it means you don’t have to use chemicals on plants you grow to eat.

Fragrant herbs and flowers can help to protect your plant from pests by masking the smell of your plant, which means the pests find it more difficult to find it. And some smells put off certain pests all together, driving them away from your crop.

French marigolds will deter whiteflies and aphids, so are a perfect companion for tomatoes or beans. Herbs such as sage, mint and parsley also deter certain pests.

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Plants from the onion family, such as onions, chives and leeks are great companions for carrots, as, thanks to their smell, they put off the carrot root fly from finding your carrot plants. 

Deterring pests can also help preventing diseases, as a healthy plant is more likely to withstand diseases. Another way to prevent diseases is discouraging weeds, which can be achieved by planting for example lettuce around your tomato plants. 

Garden beds that are full of plants won’t leave any space for weeds.

By not planting the same plants in a row or in the same bed, any disease that does occur will spread slower and can therefore be easier managed. So companion planting for vegetables is very beneficial.

Attracting Beneficial Insects And Birds

Another form of pest management is to encourage predatory insects and birds who will eat common pests. 

Parsley and coriander will attract ladybirds who love eating aphids. Yarrow, dill and marigold not only attract ladybirds, but also hoverflies and parasitic wasps.

Nectar rich flowers will attract pollinators, such as chives, onions or lavender. And once they are in your garden, they will also pollinate your vegetable plants, which will increase the yield.

Pests are not only a nuisance but can also decrease your yield, but the good news is, by using companion planting for vegetables, you can minimise any damage they do.

Using Martyr Plants

Nasturtium can be used as a martyr plant

Another way to keep pests off your plants, is to grow plants they find irresistible and let them eat these. Nasturtium is such a sacrificial plant you can use as it attracts a variety of pests such as blackfly and cabbage white butterfly. 

In the greenhouse, you can plant basil near tomatoes and cucumbers to protect them from the aphids. 

While luring away pests from your crops to sacrificial nearby plants is a good way to keep your crops pest free, if a heavy infestation occurs, the pests might still find your plants. So, encouraging predatory insects at the same time might be a good idea.

Creating The Best Conditions

Different plants need different conditions to thrive, and companion plants can help provide the right environment. Companion planting for vegetables is highly recommended, because it can help not only to keep your plants healthy, but also improve the taste of your vegetables.

If you are lucky enough to have a south facing garden, you probably sometimes struggle to provide shade for plants that don’t like full sunshine.

Planting tall plants such as tomatoes or sweet corn with these plants will provide them with natural shade. Lettuce is one such plant that needs cool conditions, so planting it under tomatoes is a great idea.

Some plants can improve the health of the soil around it, which will benefit the plants in its community, for example Yarrow, which fertilises the soil around it. 

Basil is said to improve the health and productivity of peppers. While it has not been proven, it is also said that basil improves the flavour of tomatoes, peppers and lettuce when planted together. 

Peas and beans extract nitrogen from the air and then release any excess into the soil, which means they make a great companion plant for fruit trees and bushes, such as raspberries.

Plants that cover the soil around them, such as lettuce or big leaved plants such as squashes will help to keep the moisture in the soil. So these are great for plants that need moist conditions, such as tomatoes. It will also mean less watering for you!

As you can see, companion planting for vegetables is worth a try.

The Best Companion Plants For The Most Common Vegetables

To help you get started using this very companion planting for vegetables in your garden, we have put together some examples of the most commonly grown fruits and vegetables in our gardens.

Using companion planting for vegetables will help you to get the best out of these commonly grown fruits and vegetables.

What To Plant With Tomatoes

tomato plant

Tomatoes are a firm favourite with gardeners here in the UK. They are sweet, juicy and summer wouldn’t be summer without them. And they can be even better when you use companion planting for vegetables to support them.

Companion Plants For Tomatoes

There are a range of aromatic herbs, flowers and vegetables that will help to keep your tomato plants pest free by deterring them.

Companion PlantHow it helps
MintMint has a strong scent which repels aphids, one of the most common tomato pests, and other pest insects
BasilAnother aromatic herb that is said to deter aphids, especially in the greenhouse
ChivesThe onion smell of the chives deter aphids, nematodes and mites. Chives are great as natural pest deterrents
OnionsLike the chives, the smell of onions deters a variety of pests, such as aphids
GarlicAnother member of the onion family that will deter pests such as aphids
NasturtiumsThis flower is often used as a trap crop, as aphids and whiteflies love it and will leave your tomatoes alone. The flowers of the Nasturtiums are not only beautiful but also edible.
AsparagusAsparagus repels nematodes and in turn the tomatoes deter the asparagus beetle. So planting these together will create a mutual benefit
ThymeThis Mediterranean herb deters whiteflies, blackflies and aphids.

Another way to keep pests away from your plants is by attracting beneficial insects who will eat any pests that dare come near your tomatoes. But many plants also attract pollinators to your garden.

Companion PlantHow it helps
ParsleyPlant parley outside close to tomato plants. Parsley attracts hoverflies, whose larva eat aphids
ChivesChives attract pollinator such as bees and butterflies, as well as predators such as ladybirds and hoverflies
ThymeThyme attracts pollinating insects, especially bees and is also attractive to many beneficial predators
BorageThis beautiful flower attracts many pollinators, especially bees

In order to ensure a pumper crop, you want to provide the best conditions possible and companion crops can help with this too. Some are even said to improve the flavour.

tomato and basil a great companions
Companion PlantHow it helps
BasilBasil is said to increase the vigour and health of tomato plants and improve the flavour of your tomatoes
BorageBorage is also said to improve the flavour of tomatoes
LettucePlanting lettuce around your tomato plant will reduce weeds, which will minimise the risk of diseases. The lettuce will also cover the soil which will help with moisture retention
ThymeThyme is also said to improve the flavour of tomatoes

There are also plants that you shouldn’t plant with tomatoes.

PlantWhy it should not be planted with tomatoes
BrassicaPlants from the cabbage family, such as cabbage, broccoli, brussels sprout, kale, etc. will stunt the growth of your tomato plants
DillWhile it may repel pest insects, it will also inhibit the growth of your tomato plants
NightshadesPlants from the nightshade family, to which tomatoes belong, will compete for the same nutrients and will attract the same diseases, such as blight, and pests, such as aphids. So avoid planting potatoes, aubergine, and peppers with tomatoes
FennelFennel will stunt tomato growth when planted nearby
WalnutWalnut can act as growth inhibitors to tomatoes, but tomatoes are also susceptible to walnut wilt which can spread from the walnut plant

As you can see there are quite a few great companion plants for tomatoes, but this also makes it more difficult to choose, as most of us won’t have enough space for all of them.

To help you we recommend this plant community for your tomato plant:

plants to grow with toamtoes
Tomato Community

We have chosen Basil to improve the vigour and health of the tomato plant and also to improve the flavour of the tomato fruits. The chives will deter pests and attract pollinators. The lettuce will fill the gaps to ensure good soil coverage to minimise weeds and keep moisture in the soil.

You can even create this plant community in a pot or container. So companion planting for vegetables is not only for people who have a big garden. Everyone can use it.

If you want to know more about growing tomatoes, read our article about how to grow tomatoes from seed.

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What To Plant With Carrots

Home grown carrots taste so much better than shop bought ones. And they are easy to grow as well. And it is even easier if you use companion planting for vegetables.

Companion Plants For Carrots

carrots with leaves

There are a range of plants that you can grow with carrots that will help keep them pest free by repelling them.

Companion PlantHow it helps
TomatoesTomato plants release a chemical called solanine which repels the carrot fly. But  make sure you plant your carrots 40 cm (15 in) away from the tomatoes, because if they too close the growth of the carrots could be inhibited.
Onions, leeks, spring onionsMembers of the allium family, such as onions, leeks and spring onions deter the carrot fly by confusing them with their strong scent.
ChivesAnother member of the allium family that will deter the carrot root fly and aphids.
MintThis fragrant herb will also confuse carrot root flies, putting them off your carrot plants. Don’t plant the mint directly in the bed though, as it will take over. Plant it in a pot and position it near your carrot bed.
RosemaryThis aromatic companion plant will deter the carrot fly. Again, plant it in a pot rather than in the bed as it might take over the bed
SageSage is another herb that will deter carrot root flies.

Attracting natural predators of various garden pests can help keeping numbers in check and getting a good carrot yield. Attracting pollinators is always beneficial for your vegetable garden and companion planting for vegetables can help.

Companion PlantHow it helps
ChivesChives attract pollinators like bees but also beneficial insects such as ladybirds and hoverflies
NasturtiumThis flower attracts a range of pollinators as well as predatory wasps. But if can also act as a trap crop or martyr plant as it attracts aphids like a magnet. 
LavenderLavender is a pollinator and beneficial insect magnet and will attract bees, hoverflies and butterflies

Try these suitable companion plants for carrots to increase the conditions and your yield.

Companion PlantHow it helps
PeasGrow peas with your carrots. Not only will the taller plants provide shade to your carrots and keep them cool, they will also release nitrogen into the soil, which will help your carrots grow 
BeansLike peas, beans are nitrogenous plants who release nitrogen into the soil.
TomatoesTomato plants can provide shade for your carrots, keeping them cool
ChivesChives are said to improve the flavour of carrots when planted nearby
LettuceLettuce will also provide shade for carrots and will keep the soil cool.

Some combinations of plants won’t work and these are plants that you shouldn’t plant with carrots.

Dill should not be planted with carrots
PlantWhy it should not be planted with carrots
DillThis member of the celery releases harmful compounds into the soil, which can stunt the growth of carrots
CorianderLike dill, coriander releases harmful chemical into the soil which can cause stunted growth in carrots
ParsnipParsnip suffer from the same pests and diseases, so keep these two plants away from each other to minimise the risk of a pest infestation or disease infection
PotatoesPotatoes and other root vegetables will compete for the same soil nutrients, such as phosphorous which can lead to a smaller yield
CeleryCelery attracts the carrot fly, so should not be planted near carrots

To help you with the plant choices for companions for your carrots, we suggest the following community of plants to keep your carrots healthy, pest free and producing a good yield.

companion plants for carrots
Carrot Community

The lettuce will provide shade to your carrots and keep the soil cool to give the carrots the conditions they need. The onions will confuse the carrot root flies to keep them away from your crop plants. The chives will help to keep pests away, attract pollinators and beneficial insects and also improve the flavour of your carrots. 

You can continue this pattern for the entire bed if you want. Or, you can mix it up, it’s up to you! That’s the beauty of companion planting for vegetables, you can make it your own.

If you want to know more about growing carrots, read our carrot growing guide.

What To Plant With Potatoes

Potatoes are always a favourite crop. There is nothing better than the taste of homegrown spuds. And planting the right companions can make them even better. So we had to include them in our guide about companion planting for vegetables.

Companion Plants For Potatoes

potatoes on the floor

These plants will help keep your potatoes pest free.

Companion PlantHow it helps
ChivesThe smell of this fragrant herb will repel insect pests such as aphids. And because it has shallow roots, it won’t compete with the potatoes
CeleryCelery has a strong scent which will deter various pests
GarlicThis member of the allium family has a strong smell and will repel confuse harmful insects. 
OnionsAgain, the smell repels pests
Spring OnionsSpring onions don’t take up much space, so they can be planted on the edge of the bed or container to help deter pests
ParsleyParsley can act as a trap plant to lure pests away from your potatoes. Place a pot of parsley next to your potato container to keep your spuds pest free.
BasilThis Mediterranean herb repels aphids, beetles and whiteflies
SageAnother herb with scented leaves that will deter insect pests, such as the flea beetle

Beneficial insects in your garden can make a big difference to your potatoes. And these plants can help attracting them.

Companion PlantHow it helps
ChivesChives attract pollinators such as bees, but also predatory insects such as ladybirds and hoverflies
ParsleyParsley attracts predators such as hoverflies
SageSage attracts pollinators

Creating the right plant community around your potatoes will not only keep them safe from pests but will also create the perfect growing conditions.

Companion PlantHow it helps
LegumesPeas and beans produce nitrogen and release any surplus into the soil, which can improve the yield and quality of your tubers. Note: if you want to include legumes in the potato plant community, leave onions, garlic and spring onions out, as they can stunt the growth of your legumes.
SweetcornWhile potatoes like sunny weather, they don’t like drying out. Sweetcorn can provide natural shade for crops and protection from the wind. Their shallow roots won’t compete with the potatoes for nutrients
ParsleyParsley is said to improve the flavour of your tubers
Spinach and lettuceSpinach and lettuce leaves add good soil cover which will keep the soil moist and weeds away. Plant them around your young potato plants
GarlicGarlic is said to have antifungal properties and can increase the disease resistance of your potatoes, especially against late potato blight
BasilBasil is said to improve the flavour of potatoes

Here are plants you should avoid growing in the same community as potatoes.

PlantWhy it should not be planted with potatoes
NightshadesMembers of the nightshade family, such as tomatoes, peepers and aubergines should not be planted with potatoes, which belongs to the same family, because they attract the same pests and diseases
CucurbitsMembers of the cucurbit family, such as cucumber and squashes can increase the risk of blight affecting your potatoes. They also compete with the potato for nutrients and water
RaspberriesRaspberries near your potatoes can increase the risk of blight and other diseases affecting your potatoes
CarrotsCarrots can stunt the growth of potatoes
AsparagusAsparagus can also inhibit the growth of potato plants nearby
FennelFennel can inhibit the growth of potatoes

Unsure which of these plants to choose for your potato community? Don’t worry, our guide about companion planting for vegetables can help. We recommend the following plant community for your potatoes, whether you grow them in a bed or in containers.

For containers:

plants to grow with potatoes in container
Potato Community Container

For beds:

Plants to grow with potatoes in bed
Potato Community Bed

The garlic will help repel pests but also lower the risk of late potato blight affecting your spuds. Start off your garlic in moulds in autumn in an unheated greenhouse. Then plant them out with your potatoes in spring. The basil and sage will help repel various garden pests and attract pollinators and predatory insects. The basil will also improve the flavour of your tubers. A great example of how companion planting for vegetables can help your veggies thrive.

If you want to know more about growing potatoes, read our potato growing guide

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What To Plant With Courgettes

Home grown courgettes are so much better than shop-bought ones. To get a good yield, use companion planting for vegetables.

Companion Plants For Courgettes

Courgettes are susceptible to pests like aphids and slugs and snails. Grow these plants with your courgettes to keep them pest free.

Companion PlantHow it helps
OreganoThis aromatic herb repels pests
NasturtiumNasturtium is a magnet for aphids, so plant them near your courgettes to keep the nasty insects off them. Using Nasturtium as a trap crop is common in companion planting
RadishesRadishes deter aphids and other pests
GarlicGarlic also deters or confuses many pest insects, such as aphids or whiteflies
ParsleyAnother herb that can deter pests from attacking your crop
MintMint also deters common pests. Grow in a pot and put it next to your courgette plants
MarigoldMarigolds can be used as trap crop to lure slugs and snails away from your vegetables, such as young courgette plants

Courgettes only produce fruit if they have been pollinated. So unless you can get pollinators to them, you won’t have a harvest. But don’t worry, companion planting for vegetables can help. And plants that attract pollinators also attract useful natural predators.

courgette flowers
Companion PlantHow it helps
NasturtiumsThis flower attracts pollinators, especially bees
BorageBorage is loved by pollinators
OreganoOregano attracts pollinators as well as lacewings and hoverflies which will keep pests in check
ParsleyParsley attracts hoverflies and other predatory insects
YarrowThis herb attracts pollinators and beneficial insects alike so are a great companion for courgettes
MarigoldMarigold are a magnet for pollinators

Courgettes, like other squashes, are heavy feeders, so need plenty of nutrients and water to thrive. The right plant community can help to create the right conditions.

Companion PlantHow it helps
LegumesBeans and peas get nitrogen from the air, rather than the soil, and they release any excess nitrogen into the soil. This is great for hungry plants like courgettes. Any type of beans or peas will do, but if you are short on space, pole beans are ideal as they are climbers so will leave soil space to the courgettes
GarlicGarlic is said to have antifungal properties and can lower the risk of diseases such as blight when planted near courgettes
YarrowYarrow fertilises the soil around it, which is great for the plants nearby.
RadishesRadishes provide good ground cover which will prevent weeds from growing and reduce the risk of diseases

Courgettes seem to be fairly easy going and are happy with most plants as companions. But there are some that shouldn’t be planted with courgettes.

PlantWhy it should not be planted with courgettes
PotatoesLike courgettes, potatoes are heavy feeders, so they will compete for nutrients and water. They also attract the same pests
TomatoesTomatoes will attract the same pests so should not be planted with courgettes
CucumbersCucumbers are also heavy feeders, so if planted with courgettes they will compete for nutrients and water, which could result in lower yields for both crops
SquashesIf you are planning to save the seeds of your courgettes, don’t plant squashes with them. Courgettes are part of the squash family and when planted together cross pollination might occur, which can make the fruits taste bitter

To get you started, we recommend the following community for your courgette.

plants to grow with courgette plants
Courgette Community

The beans will provide shade and nitrogen. The Yarrow will attract pollinators and release nutrients into the soil. The radishes will repel common pests like aphids and suppress weeds. As they are a quick growing crop, you have to keep sowing them to ensure constant protection for your courgette plant.

If you want to know more about how to grow courgettes, read our guide.

Even if you don’t want to create plant communities as we have suggested above, using companion planting for vegetables, will help your vegetables to thrive. And it will also increase the biodiversity of your garden, which will help the environment. Here are the best 10 companion plants to grow suggested by Gardners’ World.

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